Ukraine Unitary state

History and trends

Ukraine is a semi-presidential Republic. Its Constitution was adopted on 28 June 1996 and amended on 8 December 2004.

The area that would later become Ukraine in the 13th-14th centuries was once part of Kievan Rus’ (Russian land) in the 9th-12th centuries.

The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was established in December 1917, with its government in Kharkiv. It was linked to Soviet Russia by a military and political agreement signed in June 1919. Recognised by Poland in the Treaty of Riga (March 1921), it joined the Soviet Union as a federal republic in December 1922. Until the early 1930s, the Bolshevik leaders implemented a so-called “Ukrainisation” policy intended to strengthen Soviet power in the territory.

Under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (August 1939), the USSR annexed Polish territories home to ethnic Ukrainians, as well as Bukovina and Bessarabia (1940) – a process that unified almost the entire Ukrainian nation. In 1941, Ukraine was occupied by the Nazis, who ruled the country with an iron fist until it was liberated by the Red Army in 1943-1944.

Transcarpathian Ukraine was transferred from Czechoslovakia in 1945, and the Crimean Oblast was added to its territory in 1954. In 1945, Ukraine was one of the founding members of the United Nations.

Following the failed Soviet coup d’etat attempt of 19-21 August 1991, Ukraine, which had been sovereign since July 1990, moved quickly to declare independence just three days later. The country gained official independence following a referendum on 1 December 1991, with 90.3% of voters in favour.

Since independence, Ukraine has deliberately pursued multi-directional foreign policy, seeking to strike a balance between its roots in Europe and its relationship with neighbouring Russia.

Since the early 1990s, Ukraine’s leaders have prioritised joining European and transatlantic institutions. In June 1994, Ukraine signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union. The government’s long-term objective is to join the EU.

Ukraine is divided into 24 administrative regions (oblasti) plus one municipality (misto) with special legal status: Kiev.

In addition, Ukraine claims the entirety of Crimea – i.e. the city with special status of Sevastopol and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea – as part of its territory. These territories were annexed by Russia in 2014 and currently constitute the Federal District of Crimea, part of the Russian Federation.


As of 2016, the local government landscape is divided into:

  • 24 regions (oblasti) and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (which seceded and declared itself a federal district of Russia in 2014)
  • The city-regions of Kiev and Sevastopol
  • 604 districts (raioni)
  • 459 towns
  • 885 settlements
  • 12,088 local councils/authorities, including 24 regional councils
  • 28,450 villages/rural municipalities.

As at 1 January 2010, 459 Ukrainian municipalities had obtained town or city status. These are divided into three categories:

  • 2 special-status cities: Kiev and Sevastopol
  • 178 towns answerable to a region or to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea
  • 279 towns answerable to a district.

The 2001 census listed 454 towns/cities, and the 1989 census listed 434.

In April 2014, following a civil war, two majority Russian-speaking territories split from Ukraine to found the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR4), a self-proclaimed proto-state in Donetsk Oblast, and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in Lugansk Oblast.

In May 2014, the two secessionist states floated the idea of merging to form the Union of People’s Republics, but the plans were abandoned in 2015. These secessions and merger plans, which arose during the Ukrainian crisis and the War in Donbass, were primarily orchestrated by the Donbass People’s Militia (considered a terrorist organisation under Ukrainian law).


Key reforms:

  • Parallel decentralisation and devolution reforms.
  • Plans to merge municipalities.
  • Creation of local government consortia based on inter-municipal cooperation.
  • Reforms of local government funding mechanisms.
  • Reorganisation of local governments and local public services.